How to Keep Your Subjects Safe: Nanette Burstein on Dangerous Documentary [PODCAST]
Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein’s latest film, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, puts her life—and the lives of her subjects—at risk.
Nanette Burstein is well known for films like On the Ropes, American Teen, and The Kid Stays in the Picture. Part of her success likely comes from her insatiable curiosity and persistence in getting to the bottom of a story. But these same qualities can put her own life—and the lives of her subjects—at risk. In fact, the premiere screening of her latest film, Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, required the presence of police and bodyguards at the theater because of threats against her by the film’s antagonist.
"When I got into this film, I didn't fully understand what I was getting into. Somewhere along the way I realized it and thought, "Oh my god, if I had had a crystal ball, I'd go back in time.' But you're already in it!"
The film is a thoroughly bizarre and heart-pounding true crime tale of John McAfee—yes the McAfee of McAfee anti-virus software, and Libertarian presidential hopeful. Originally believing that she was simply investigating an unsolved murder charge against McAfee from his time living in Belize, Burstein began to uncover a very dark tale that involved everything from gang activity to sexual assault. Part of this discovery, of course, came from finding subjects brave enough to speak about their ordeals on camera.
The podcast above is from our interview in Toronto, the day after that tense premiere screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. We discuss being responsible for your subjects' safety, how to approach the challenges that each new film presents, and sustaining your career with commercial directing.
Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee premiered on Showtime on September 25 and is now available on Showtime on Demand.